“Hi, Neighbor” Queen Candidates: May 4, 1951


Officiating at a beauty contest: actor William Demarest who became “Uncle Charlie” on TV’s My Three Sons (1960-72)

“Hi Neighbor” queen candidates at Valley Municipal Building in Van Nuys, CA, May 4, 1951.

Actor William Demarest, Marlene Morrison, Janet Samprenant, Marine Sergeant Bob Fowler.

(Photo: USC Digital Archives)

Van Nuys: 1926



At the corner of 15856 Sherman Way , Van Nuys, 1926.

Wagner-Thoreson appears to be a real estate broker and they are offering one property, a 3-bedroom house at $2350 and another sign advertises 7.5% terms with $1,050 down.

This area today is west of the 405, and just east of Van Nuys Airport.

Photo: USC Digital Archives/ Dick Whittington Collection

Van Nuys Boulevard Cruising: Early 1970s

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Richard McCloskey’s images of Van Nuys Boulevard in the early 1970s, the cruising and the cars, is now for sale at Art Prints.

The photos show young people having a good time while hanging out, congregating on the street, and in the shopping center, which still stands next to Gelson’s on Van Nuys Boulevard.

Cruising, as Kevin Roderick in LA Observed explains, “began before World War II, spread across LA with the car culture of the 1950s and 60s, crested when the baby boomer hordes were at their most numerous and bored, and finally faded after the LAPD shut down the boulevard in the 1980s.”

The GM plant in Panorama City (1947-1991) built many of the cars that roamed the street. It paid its workers well, who in turn bought cars and produced children to drive them.

The cars were fueled by cheap gas (29-33 cents a gallon) which ended after the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo doubled the price of fuel and forced Americans to abandon wasteful muscle cars.

Once the cars were gone, the pretty girls and the gritty guys packed up and went away.

Van Nuys settled into its current state of illegality, drift and decline.


Memorial Day: Sawtelle Veterans Home


Soldiers’ Home, Views of Los Angeles, California, courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2013.1297.

Courtesy: California Historical Society

Nixon in Panorama City: November 29, 1956

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Not long after VP Richard M. Nixon and his boss, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, won the 1956 election, Nixon and wife Pat toured Southern California.

Introduced by Congressman Edgar W. Hiestand (R), a staunch anti-Communist and a member of the John Birch Society, Nixon spoke to an enthusiastic shopping center crowd under a banner sign which read: “Panorama City Welcomes Dick”.

(Photos courtesy of the USC Digital Archives)

Van Nuys Boulevard, Circa 1940


From the Department of Water and Power photo archives, comes this photograph of the Norvord Building at  6420 Van Nuys Boulevard, just north of Victory, circa 1940.

Van Nuys Boulevard, before it was widened in 1954, had diagonal parking, as Brand Boulevard in Glendale does today.

In looking at the above photograph, one can see that the 1920s building, had, by 1940, undergone some modernist facade renovations with curved glass at Mode O’Day and streamline signage at Arnold W. Leveen Hardware.  The simple and lovely “Van Nuys Stationary Store” had a discreet sign and an awning to shade the interior from the sun.

Van Nuys Boulevard was a walkable, civilized, clean and prosperous street in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.  Locals shopped here and patronized small businesses who in turn watched over the community.  That was Van Nuys 74 years ago.

And what is it today?

1949 and 1953: Two Aerial Views Over Panorama City and the GM Plant.






From the USC Digital Archives comes these stunning aerial photos over Panorama City and the large General Motors Plant. The top on is from 1949. And then one taken four years later on January 13, 1953 showing the rapid growth of the area.

Some 15,000 new homes were built in 1953, and some 30,000 new structures added. The vast agricultural landscape was transformed into a suburban, single-family section of Los Angeles, peopled by young families with children.

The map shows that the streets, 61 years later, are still the same. The vast GM Plant closed in 1992 and is now occupied by “The Plant” shopping mall. Panorama City still teems with new arrivals.

Constructing the Valley Municipal Building, 1932

Most photographs of the Valley Municipal Building show the 1933 building after its completion, but here are some, by Dick Whittington Studio as the hole was being dug in 1932.





Statistics and specifications for the completed structure exist and have been cited many times, so I won’t do it here.

Instead, one might look at these photographs and imagine the small town of Van Nuys, self-sufficient and walkable, safe and sunny, sitting in the middle of the largely agricultural San Fernando Valley in the depths of the Great Depression.

Surrounding the t-shaped dig, is a Richfield gas station and The Erwin Hotel, criss-crossed in a vaguely Tudor style.

In contrast to today’s heavily regulated construction, the men are all in civilian clothing-no hardhats, no vast walls around the site, no safety signs. The humble trucks are pulled right up to dirt and a two strips of lumber comprise a fence surrounding the digging.

Laborers, architects, drivers, engineers, photographer; everyone was lucky to work.

With such opening modesty the end product was magnificent, distinguished and proud.
And became that symbol of Van Nuys everlasting.



Griffith Observatory, 1930s






Courtesy of Nathan Masters, I found these fascinating vintage images which the USC Digital Libraries recently added to their Dick Whittington Photography Collection.

They show a family or friends (Dufay?) on what seems to be a Sunday type of outing, in the mid 1930s, up to Griffith Observatory, which had opened on May 14, 1935.

In the midst of the Great Depression, or perhaps because of it, people took care to dress up in dignity and elegance.

Van Nuys: A Look Back.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Another election, another possibility to change the direction of Van Nuys and reorient this community into progress and prosperity.

Over the last 100 years, men and women, with much less technology and money, managed to build, plan, create and civilize a vast, semi-arid valley, a place of schools, homes, factories, industries, churches, women’s clubs and fraternal organizations. A sense of local pride was evident, as seen in these photographs.

When people had less, it seems, they valued what they had more.

Photographs on this page are taken from the USC Digital Archives, CSUN and LAPL.
The 1926 images are from the Dick Whittington Studios now archived at USC.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

California Bank Van Nuys Blvd/Sylva (circa 1925)

California Bank Van Nuys Blvd/Sylva (circa 1925)

GM Plant on Van Nuys Blvd (circa 1950)

GM Plant on Van Nuys Blvd (circa 1950)


Van Nuys Circa 1945

Van Nuys Circa 1945

Old Van Nuys Women's Club (14852 Sylvan near Kester).  Now Eglesia de Jesuschristo.

Old Van Nuys Women’s Club (14852 Sylvan near Kester). Now Eglesia de Jesuschristo.

Van Nuys Blvd. at Friar (circa 1950). Notice diagonal parking and streetcar wiring.

Van Nuys Blvd. at Friar (circa 1950). Notice diagonal parking and streetcar wiring.